Has the WBC's franchise champion brought clarity or confusion?
WBC has explained introduction of a franchise champion
By Kieron Johnson
Last Updated: 03/09/19 12:22pm
Has the WBC's franchise champion brought clarity or confusion? The WBC president and a panel of experts offer insight into the new status.
While prizefighters worldwide were squaring off against each other at the height of the boxing season, the WBC added yet another ingredient to the middleweight mix: the curiously-titled 'franchise champion'.
In June, the WBC elevated middleweight champion Saul 'Canelo' Alvarez to franchise champion and installed the interim champion Jermall Charlo as middleweight champion.
Alvarez is the only world champion to receive this distinction, but could the hard-hitting WBC heavyweight title-holder Deontay Wilder be next in line?
We examine the status of a franchise champion and ask our panel of experts to discuss the potential impact on the heavyweight scene.
What is a franchise champion?
The WBC board of governors recently approved rule 3.26 of the WBC rules and regulations, which created the WBC franchise champion.
According to this rule, a franchise champion is "a special designation and status" which the WBC may bestow to a current WBC world champion, who is also an elite boxer, and who has achieved and maintains the highest of statures in the sport.
"A franchise champion shall enjoy special status with respect to his or her mandatory obligations, holding multiple titles and competing for titles of other organisations, as the WBC board of governors rules on a case-by-case basis."
As newly-crowned franchise champion, Alvarez now has the right to pursue fights of his choosing without the responsibility of making a mandatory title defence against Charlo.
If Wilder is made franchise champion down the line, he too will have the power to sidestep his mandatory challenger.
What are the roles and responsibilities of a franchise champion?
Significantly, the WBC does not foist franchise champion status on any fighter. The appointment represents seven "mutual agreements between the WBC, the champion and his or her promoter"."The franchise champion designation is exclusively by appointment of the WBC board of governors by a majority (two-thirds) vote of the board."
According to the WBC, the board made Alvarez a franchise champion "due to his many accomplishments, which have positioned him as a major worldwide attraction in boxing. Alvarez has represented the WBC for 11 years with outstanding results in his professional career".
Similarly, Wilder's in-ring credentials are impressive in their own right. With his recent demolition of Dominic Breazeale by first-round KO, the Alabama native became the 10th fighter in more than 135 years of heavyweight boxing to make nine or more consecutive title defences. He joins Hall of Famers such as Muhammad Ali, Mike Tyson and Lennox Lewis.
Wilder does not fare too badly in the popularity stakes either. Based on Google search scores, endorsement dollars and social media following, ESPN's 'World Fame 100' 2019 list ranked him 34th - the top spot of any boxer anywhere in the world.
Accolades like these may well put Wilder in pole position to be appointed franchise champion sooner rather than later.
As franchise champion, Alvarez is free to take on all-comers provided the WBC approves his opponent.
With Alvarez having been made franchise champion, Charlo is recognised as the WBC middleweight champion. If Alvarez loses as franchise champion, his opponent may be next in line to fight for the WBC middleweight championship, currently held by Charlo.
What is the WBC's position?
WBC president Mauricio Sulaiman told Sky Sports: "There are fighters who define an era. Those few who make the sport gain worldwide attention. Champions like Muhammad Ali, Sugar Ray Leonard, Mike Tyson, Julio Cesar Chavez, Oscar De La Hoya, Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather Jr. These icons of the sport were in a league of their own.
"Today, Saul 'Canelo' Alvarez is a major force in boxing worldwide. He is fighting in a variety of weight categories, he is fighting the most important fights possible and he is trying to give the fans the best fights.
This is not a new championship, a new belt or a new title. It is simply a designation to a WBC champion giving him a variety of options to be able to be the best.
"The designation of franchise champion will allow him to comply with such priorities without putting his status of WBC world champion in jeopardy.
"The WBC spent several years trying to design such a designation and we feel very comfortable that it will be positive for the sport in general.
"This is not a new championship, a new belt or a new title. It is simply a designation to a WBC champion giving him a variety of options to be able to be the best."
Critics have suggested that, by having two champions in a division, the WBC has two large bites of the cherry when it comes to collecting sanctioning fees, which represent a percentage of each champion's purse.
But according to Sulaiman, "every single penny" from a franchise champion will be dedicated to the WBC Clean Boxing Program, the WBC Weight Management Program and medical research investigation with UCLA and the WBC Safe Boxing Task Force.
Is a franchise champion good or bad for the sport?
I don't think it's good for the sport. It confuses the armchair fan who we're trying to get into boxing and it slips politics in the way of making fights happen. The best don't always fight the best. I disagree with it all, to be honest.
It's a step too far, where you think 'Come on! What are you doing?' You're devaluing your product. It's a way to have two roles, two paths, two worlds, two different forms of existence without them having to meet.
Colin McMillan, former WBO featherweight champion
"The introduction of the franchise champion, and the possibility of Deontay Wilder becoming a franchise champion, will be viewed by many as the wrong direction for the sport.
"Many fans and onlookers are already worried about the proliferation of titles and this new status will add to the confusion.
"The whole objective of a mandatory position is that it's earned and shouldn't take into account promotional alliances or financial considerations. Boxing is continually under the spotlight and needs to have clear guidelines, which are transparent.
"Obviously, the ultimate aim is to have an undisputed heavyweight champion and the likes of Wilder, Ruiz Jr, Fury and Joshua fighting each other, but I'm not too sure the franchise champion is the way forward."